SaintPetersblog‘s Peter Schorsch is calling it “the poll heard round the state.” And what “it” is, is the Tuesday release of poll by Public Policy Polling (FiveThirtyEight ranked #13 with “Pollster Introduced Error rate of +1.69) which could have good news for Charlie Crist (which is bad news for Kendrick Meek…) PPP is also releasing its latest Nevada numbers, which the pollster’s preview indicates will make Harry Reid very happy.
First, the Florida situation. The PPP preview focuses on a single candidate: Charlie Crist, which intuitively should mean the poll will place him in the lead (though that’s not for certain — the pollster could simply have found his internals more interesting. Either way, we’ll soon find out…) Writes the pollster, Tom Jensen:
One thing we asked on the poll was whether people thought Charlie Crist should caucus with the Democrats or Republicans if he was elected. 43% of respondents said he should go with the Democrats and 37% with the Republicans.
Perhaps more interesting was what those planning to vote for Crist had to say. Within that group 55% said he should caucus with the Democrats to only 22% who expressed the opinion that he should join forces with the Republicans.
The idea of Crist caucusing with the Democrats is a powerful draw for his candidacy among “ABR” (anybody but Rubio) Democratic voters — even as his coyness on the issue keeps his opening with moderate Republicans alive (that’s not entirely clean, though, since moderate R’s who are sticking with Crist are probably not so sanguine on the GOP caucus in Washington, and seem unlikely to be primarily concerned with boosting their numbers.) All of that makes the decision Monday by the RNC press shop to forward around a video clip in which Charlie Cook states flatly that Crist would likely caucus with Democrats — something that logically helps, not hurts, Crist — even more puzzling. (I’m tempted to point out the irony that the person who sent it out used to work for Crist, but I’ll just leave that alone…)
As Peter points out, the really pivotal number in tomorrow’s poll might be the one for Congressman Meek:
In terms of survey data, it would represent the most damaging blow Kendrick Meek could suffer: what if a poll showed that more of Florida’s decided Democratic voters prefer independent Charlie Crist over presumptive Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek?
What if, indeed. While Team Meek insists that the polls at this stage still don’t matter, the fact is, overseas and military ballots have already gone out, absentee ballots in the mail (including in crucial Palm Beach County,) and early voting starts in three weeks. The perception game is critical to Meek (see this previous post on how poll psychology is hurting his campaign), as he seeks both to beat Jeff Greene in the primary, and demonstrate to a skeptical Democratic base (and a skeptical White House,) that even if he survives his bloody battle with Greene, he will be viable in the fall. All of the signs I’m hearing are that it will be a tough sell. A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal ran this, in an editorial otherwise aimed at attacking Crist:
Since tearing up his GOP card, he has gone from an opponent to a supporter of gay adoption and easing travel restrictions to Cuba. He opposes the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the military and vetoed a bill that placed restrictions on abortions; a few months before, he backed them. He now cozies up to teacher unions and the AFL-CIO. These flip-flops are supposed to attract Democrats and independents this November. Count the drilling ban as a play for environmentalists and the Obama White House.
He might get his wish for a Presidential blessing. The White House isn’t enthused about either candidate in the August 24 Democratic primary. An early supporter of Hillary Clinton, Congressman Kendrick Meek has slipped in the polls amid allegations that he steered federal contracts to a developer who hired his mother as a consultant; Mr. Meek denies this. His self-financed opponent, Jeff Greene, made a fortune betting against the subprime housing market and likes to hang in Hollywood with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.
Should Mr. Greene win the primary, the White House would stay clear and might tacitly back Mr. Crist. “I’m seeking the support of anybody willing to help me,” Mr. Crist told the Florida Press Association last month. “Come September, October, I’ll have two cannons aimed my way. If the President wants to help, that’s fine.”
Of course, the White House and the Meek campaign deny that there is anything short of full support for Meek’s candidacy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But I can report that the undercurrent of, shall we say “distance,” continues to exist between the Obama People of 2008 and the Hillary People, no matter that the principals have beyond reconciled, and become a solid team.
More importantly, the White House political team has proved, over and over again, that they are extremely risk-averse. They rarely jump into even pivotal races (think Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey this year…) until the very end, and then, they seem to keep any campaign at arms length that doesn’t appear to be a sure winner. (In that sense, they’re kind of like … shudder … Sarah Palin…) Team Obama doesn’t like to associate the president’s brand with losing campaigns, and they seem equally averse to straight out fights (think healthcare, where they hung back and remained virtually invisible until it was almost certain to pass.) The idea that this risk-averse White House political team would put the president’s prestige on the line for a candidate struggling to get out of the 20s in three-way polling against two Republicans, when one of those Republicans is now an “independent” whose very presence fits their narrative/obsession with bipartisanship is, well … better spin than reality. (It’s not just Meek. I’m guessing Blanche Lincoln, who’s down 25 points against her Republican opponent at the moment, won’t be seeing much of the president, either. Not the current one, anyway…)
If anything, Obama’s political capital will likely be deployed to the must-wins (Boxer in California comes to mind) … the close calls (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware … and who knows if they’ll even try to save Alexi Giannoulis in Obama’s old seat in Illinois, though you’d think they ought to…) and to repay big favors, starting first and foremost with Harry Reid, who has taken several bullets for the administration this year. I’ve said this before, but Florida is a pick-up. It’s not a “hold,” and Democrats’ Job One this year is holding the Senate and House. (BTW I’m not saying Obama won’t do robocalls, and radio spots, etc., if Meek is the nominee, particularly aimed at boosting black and young voter turnout, just that you’re unlikely to see a full court press. If Greene is the nominee … only God knows what happens then, although I’m inclined to agree with the Journal that the Obamans sit it out, except for overall GOTV, plus a full press for Alex Sink.)
I could be 100 percent wrong on all of this, of course, and if Meek were to suddenly turn the perception game around, and do really well in new polling, it would bolster his chances of drawing significant support from the White House and the DSCC. But he will need to start doing better than 18 percent in the polls, and soon. A good showing in that PPP poll wouldn’t hurt.
To the other half of tomorrow’s PPP media meme generator: it looks like Sharron Angle has succeeded in Palinizing herself, without the help of Tina Fey:
Sharron Angle is getting 9% with liberals and 80% with conservatives, down just slightly from the 12% and 82% Lowden was getting with those groups. But where Lowden trailed Reid only 51-41 with moderate voters, Angle is facing a 64-28 deficit. The price of nominating Angle for Nevada Republicans appears to be 26 points with moderate voters.
We asked poll respondents whether they considered Angle’s views to be ‘mainstream’ or ‘extremist.’ 68% of moderates put Angle in the ‘extremist’ category to just 22% who called her ‘mainstream.’ That goes a long way toward explaining the drastically changed state of this race.
BTW I can only hope and pray that Kristin Wiig gets a crack at sending up Sharron Angle when SNL gets out of re-runs… And I really can’t wait to see these polls …